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The Tyrant Alpha's Rejected Mate (Five Packs #1)
Author:Cate C. Wells

The Tyrant Alpha's Rejected Mate (Five Packs #1)

Cate C. Wells



“Una! Come get this!”

I hunch over and text quicker.

I’ve got a guy from the city willing to drive down and pay three hundred dollars for five pounds of dried morel mushrooms. I’m getting ripped off. He’s going to turn around and sell them to some fancy restaurant for six hundred, minimum, but three hundred is a nice payday when technically, I’m not allowed to handle human money.

Or talk to human men.

Or own a phone.

Or leave pack land without permission.

I’m probably not allowed to harvest morels, either, but there’s no rule, and his highness Killian Kelly never deigns to notice what mere females do all day while he and the males train and spar and condition.

I’m not mad about it. Now that Killian has the males fighting on the circuit, there’s food to eat besides what our wolves can catch and money for gas and electric. When Killian’s father was alpha, we did the laundry by hand in rain barrels and lived on venison and rabbit.

Unmated and unprotected females like me still rank low, but back in the day, I’d be working on my back, not bussing tables. That’s progress. We’re almost out of the Middle Ages in the Quarry Pack.

“Una!” Old Noreen snaps her fingers and points her hooked chin at a tray with five plastic pitchers filled to the brim with foam.

Now that’s a challenge I’m likely to fail. My arms are strong, but my bad leg plays hell with my stability.

Old Noreen must read my look of dismay. “You’ll be fine. It’ll save you having to make another trip in twenty minutes, and then you can bury your nose in that phone to your heart’s content. Come on, girl.” She snaps a few more times.

My phone vibrates. The human—Shroomforager3000—confirms the deal is on. Three hundred dollars. My heart soars. I send him the time and place.

It’s not my turn to make the run into town this week. Annie’s up. I’ll have to swap with her. It wouldn’t be right to ask her to break the “no human male” rule. If we ever get busted selling to the vendors at the farmer’s market in Chapel Bell, it’ll be bad enough. I can’t imagine what Killian would do if one of us were caught with a man.

A sliver of fear skates down my spine. It would be bad. Killian believes in making examples. If a packmate breaks the rules, if he doesn’t work hard enough, if he shows weakness—he’s dirt. Killian is fearless, unrelenting, and merciless. His life’s goal is to bully everyone else into being the same.

If he caught us in town, trading with humans—it wouldn’t matter that we’re females. There’d be hell to pay.

I breathe through the anxiety. We won’t get caught. We haven’t yet.

I power off my phone and tuck it in our hidey hole behind the crockpot. Then I head for the pitchers of beer, my bum leg dragging behind me, shoe rubber squeaking against the tile. I hoist the tray and find my balance.

“You got it?” my youngest roomie Mari asks over her shoulder. She’s at the sink up to her elbows in suds.

“Yup.” My bad leg can’t take my full weight, but I can use it like a crutch to hobble along. It’s not graceful, but I manage.

I take a steadying breath and shoulder through the swinging door into the great room. Beer is already sloshing over the brim of the pitchers. I’m going to get dirty looks for that.

Killian’s lieutenants don’t think much of me. They respect strength. Dominance. The wolf. I’ve got none of that.

Well, I do have a wolf. I can feel her. But for some reason, I’ve never gone into heat, so I’ve never shifted.

Abertha, the pack’s crone, says that some wolves come later than others. Maybe back when I was a girl, during the attack that mangled my leg, my wolf got skittish, and in good time, she’ll find the courage to shift. Or maybe I’m just a late bloomer.

I want to meet my wolf. I’ve watched a three-legged dog in town, and it keeps up with the others. Abertha says my bad leg will manifest in the wolf, but she thinks only one limb will be jacked up. It’s a fear of mine—that I’ll finally shift, and two legs will be useless.

It’s the kind of worry I don’t spend much time on. No heat, no change, no wolf. And there’s no sign of my heat, so it’s kitchen duty and the old maid’s cabin for me.

I don’t mind since the alternative is mating one of these meathead assholes.

I slowly make my way between the tables. None of the males bother to move their stretched legs out of my path. Wouldn’t want to acknowledge my weakness. That’d be rude.

They avert their eyes as I pass, otherwise ignoring me. Which is fine. I feel bad for their mates, stuck on their laps or crushed to their sides, forced to listen to them recount old fights in excruciating detail—for the umpteenth time.

I’m skirting the edges of the great room, focused on the task at hand, when Killian’s voice booms from his makeshift throne on the dais.

“Lochlan.” He snaps and points to the open floor at his feet. Lochlan’s crew goes nuts. Shouts shake the rafters.

“And—” Killian pauses for dramatic emphasis. “Tye.”

The shouts turn to howls. Folks stomp their feet. Everyone has been waiting for this match. Lochlan Byrne has been picking fights, challenging wolves closer and closer in rank to Killian. Lochlan’s working himself up to a beta challenge and everyone knows it.

Tye is our beta now. If Lochlan wins, he can demand the rank, and Killian would be going against tradition to deny him. If Tye wins, Lochlan has to step back down. For now. My stomach aches. I spend a lot of time worrying about what would happen if Lochlan and his backers took over. It wouldn’t be good for me and my roomies, that’s for damn sure.

Killian’s a dick, but Lochlan is a “back in the day” type. You know, “back in the day” bitches presented at command. None of this mating-for-life bullshit. “Back in the day” the alpha put down defective wolves. For their own good. This, of course, is always said within my hearing while eyeing my bum leg.

I’m not afraid of Lochlan, but I’m terrified of all the packmates who think like him and keep it on the down low. I’m scared they’ll outnumber Killian’s crew, and I won’t see it coming in time to run.

I can live with our current level of backwards, but I’m not going face down, ass up because some higher-ranking male wants to scratch an itch. Screw that. I’ve got cash in a jar buried behind my cabin. I’ve got options.

As Tye and Lochlan make their way to the center of the room and square off, Killian bends forward in his metal folding chair, bracing his forearms on his thick thighs. It might as well be a throne. The huge fireplace at his back frames him in stone and fire, and no one dares approach unless he gives them the nod.

Tye and Lochlan bump fists and crouch. It’s gonna be a wrestling match. I edge along the wall. They’re cutting off my direct route, but I can pick my way to the table that needs the beers.